At the beginning of the 20th century, when 12-string guitars first appeared in the United States, the instruments were considered novelty items, curiosities, freaks of guitar making that were beneath the dignity of serious companies like Martin and Gibson. But when Blind Willie McTell picked up a Stella 12-string in 1927, and then basically never put it down, the instrument was suddenly legitimized.

A folk singer named Huddie Ledbetter, better known as Lead Belly, had actually made the Stella 12-string his own earlier, in 1912, but Lead Belly had so many scrapes with the law and spent so much time in prison that he wouldn’t get a chance to popularize the ringing tones of the 12-string until the 1930s and ’40s. Even then, his biggest hit, “Good Night Irene,” came after his death in 1949.

Pete Seeger and the Weavers kept the 12-string sound alive until the 1960s, when groups like the Rooftop Singers (“Walk Right In”) made it the go-to instrument on the commercial folk scene. Gibson was ready with its B-45 in 1961 and its B-25 in 1962, while Martin got on board a bit later with its D12-20 in 1964 and D12-35 in 1965.

The loudest noise in 12-strings, though, was made by Rickenbacker, thanks to a custom, one-of-a-kind 12-string version of its 325 hollowbody electric guitar made in 1964 for John Lennon of the Beatles. George Harrison also became a Rickenbacker acolyte, playing his Rickenbacker 360 12-string on songs like "A Hard Day’s Night."

One musician who liked that sound a lot was Roger McGuinn of the Byrds. Reportedly, he bought a 360-12 after seeing the movie named after of the famous Beatles song. He went on to play a 12-string on one of the Byrds’ biggest hits, “Turn Turn Turn.”

By the late 1970s, newer companies like Taylor made acoustic 12-strings part of their lines. Once again, a key musician would cement the instrument's sound in our collective soundtrack. In this case it was Neil Young who, while vacationing in Florida, purchased a Taylor 12-string, an 855, at a local music shop. Young liked his 855 so much he ordered a second, and Taylor subsequently gained widespread recognition when Young’s 855 figured prominently in his concert film, "Rust Never Sleeps."

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Vintage Guitars Info

Vintage Guitars Info

This great reference site features detailed sections on vintage guitar makers, including Gibson, Fender, Martin, Gr… [read review or visit site]

Vintage Guitar and Bass

Vintage Guitar and Bass

Want to see all the old brochures and ads for your favorite vintage axe? Check out this great site, which showcases… [read review or visit site]

Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Gretsch 6075 1967 Sunburst 12 String MonkeesLarrivee Model D-05-12, 12 String GuitarFender Hot Rod Deville 2x12 UsedMartin D12x1ae 12-string Dreadnought Acoustic Electric Guitar Sold As IsTakamine 12 String Acoustic Electric Guitar And Soft CaseFender F330-12 12 String GuitarUsed Yamaha Apx700ii 12 String Thinline Cutaway Acoustic Electric Guitar Art NatRickenbacker Gold Truss Rod Cover (trc) Left-handed (lefty) 12-stringLuthier Handmade Electric Acoustic 12 Strings Guitar12 String Tele Style Electric Guitar Natural FinishOscar Schmidt 12 String Cutaway Acoustic Electric Guitar Od312ce, Black GlossNew 12 String Electric Guitar Thin-line Semi-hollow BodyGuild Westerly Collection F2512e 12-string Acoustic-electric Guitar Jumbo + BagOvation 12 String Acoustic Electric Guitar Model 1515-4 Parts RepairOvation 1115-4 12 String 1972 Low Opening Bid No ReserveFender F 310-12 12 String Acoustic GuitarEpiphone 12 String Acoustic Guitar Pr-350 12New Custom Pro 2017 Zebrano Top Strat Style 12 String Electric Guitar Set Of12 Select Green Rainbow Abalone Violin Slides - Flame-heart-rainbowNew Custom Pro 2017 Zebrano Top Strat Style 12 String Electric Guitar Tkl Jumbo Guitar Case Canadian Made, High Quality, Red Interoir, 12 Photos12 X Rotosound R10 Roto Yellows Electric Guitar Strings 12 PacksBenson Custom Esquire Telecaster Hot 12k Bridge Pickup W/ Steel PlateMusiclily Chrome 11mm 12 String Tune-o-matic Bridge For Gibson Les Paul GuitarCaline Cp-05 10 Ch Isolated Output Guitar Effect Power Supply Output 9v 12v 18v12 Packs Rotosound Michael Amott Electric Guitar Strings Signature Set 11-59Mxr Dyna Comp M102 Compressor Pedal W/ Guitar Center Warranty Until 12/29/2017Ernie Ball 2626 Not Even Slinky Nickel Wound Electric Guitar Strings (12-56)Supro 1967 Chrome 12 String Rosewood Bridge W/ Tailpiece & Mounts Valco Abr 1